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AG Jeff Sessions recuses himself from all investigations into Trump campaign

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking at the Justice Department in Washington on Thursday, defended an answer he gave during his confirmation hearings to a question posed by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). (Susan Walsh/The Associated Press)

In a news conference Thursday afternoon, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to recuse himself from any and all investigations that might occur into the Donald Trump for President campaign, including any investigations into possible contacts between the Russian government and that campaign.

Sessions opened the news conference by strongly defending an answer he gave during his confirmation hearings to a question posed by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). Sessions said that he understood the question to pertain to an "ongoing" exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, an allegation that had just broken in the news the day he answered the question. He said he did not intend to mislead Congress and that his answer was accurate and truthful as he understood the question at the time. He promised to send a letter to Congress "soon, either today or tomorrow" to "clarify" his testimony.

He also said he had contacted ethics experts within his office about whether he should recuse himself from any investigations into the Trump campaign well before the news of Sessions' contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak broke in the Washington Post on Wednesday. According to Sessions, those experts advised him that due to Sessions' role in the campaign, he should recuse himself from any investigation into the campaign's activities. Sessions indicated that he would honor that advice and immediately announce his recusal from any and all matters pertaining in any way to either presidential campaign in 2016. He went on to say that this announcement should not be considered as confirmation that any such investigation exists.

Sessions answered questions briefly after his statement, which mostly focused on the nature of the contacts with Kislyak. He characterized one of the meetings as having been instigated by Kislyak, who he alleges spoke with him in the presence of two senior staffers and possibly one additional junior staffer. Sessions suggested that the meeting might have been prompted by a meeting Sessions' office conducted with the Ukranian ambassador the day before, and that the Russian ambassador wished to essentially state Russia's belief that Russia was blameless in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine, and that the exchange got "a bit testy" as it went on. He described the interaction with Kislyak at the RNC as brief and unsubstantive, and denied having ever discussed anything pertaining to the 2016 campaign with Kislyak.

Sessions was asked if he at any time had ever met with anyone else from the Russian government since he endorsed Donald Trump for president, and he replied, "I don't believe so.... I, maybe, you meet a lot of people, so."

Sessions did not in any way confirm that his recusal was related to the recent Russia campaign, and insisted that it was based on the advice of ethics experts in his department that "I should not be investigating a campaign I had a role in."

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